In monster\Kaiju movies it is common to see the military engaging giant monsters, using air power, at extremely close range.

An early example of this was in the 1933 rendition of King Kong the biplane circling the titular ape came close enough for him to reach out and swat one as it passed by him.

This continued into the golden age of Japanese monster movies, with jets attacking various Kaiju by strafing them with missiles and then passing over the monster seconds later, close enough to be swatted.

The same trope is present in modern movies, such as Ape Vs Monster (2021) in which an attack helicopter pilot was so close to the titular ape when it fired that it had to pull up to avoid colliding with it seconds later.

This is frequently done for cinematic reasons, particularly with monster that have limited or no ranged attacks with which to retaliate. But does not reflect modern military military doctrine because it puts men and machines in unnecessary danger, and does not utilize the full range of their weapons.

My question, what would be a more realistic range for a modern tank buster helicopter (The Apache, for example) to attack from using 1) Laser guided anti tank missiles, 2) Unguided rockets, 3) A canon equipped with depleted uranium rounds?

The maximum range of these types of weapon is easy to find, but would this necessarily reflect the actual range form which they would be fired due to issues such as accuracy or a reduction in lethality?

For context, the Kaiju is a "huge scary crab thing", it's essentially a normal crab with normal crab shell and normal grab intelligence, but scaled up to 7 stories (with the fact that it would collapse under it's own weight in real life quietly ignored).

If you hit it with a couple of modern laser guided anti-tank missile the story would be over very quickly.


5 Answers 5


As close as possible while staying completely safe

I'm basing this answer off military sniper training doctrine, which essentially states what I just put above. During engagement, the first priority is to safeguard yourself and the second priority is to inflict maximum damage on your opponent. It is not always possible to completely safeguard yourself, but sometimes it is.

When fighting a kaiju, kaiju come in many shapes, sizes, and types; not to mention that the environment they are rampaging through matters as well. A dragon with a breath weapon has a far larger reach than giant ape, but if you're in an urban environment with plenty of readily available debris for projectiles, the ape isn't limited to melee attacks either.

Thus, to start with for combat, the attack helicopters would operate at or near their maximum engagement distance, opening fire with their long range weapons to bait a response. Then, adjusting as necessary to the kaiju's capacity, they would slowly move in closer and closer until they felt they were as close as possible while staying safe.

And, should you be able to safely charge it without fearing repercussion, there's not really a good reason not to do it - firing at point blank allows for maximum accuracy and maximum damage, after all. So, it turns out that getting close to the monster isn't just good cinema, it's good tactics as well.

I wouldn't recommend getting close enough to need to pull-up to avoid crashing though, especially considering that many attack helicopters also come with explosive missiles, which have a minimum safe distance.

  • $\begingroup$ What would those be, 100s of metres, a kilometer? $\endgroup$ Jun 12, 2022 at 14:56
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    $\begingroup$ @AaarghZombies: As a rule of thumb, about half the effective range. The effective range of a weapon is the distance beyond which the officer in charge will forbid trying to engage the enemy; by and large, one is supposed to wait for the enemy to come well within the effective range before engaging. On the other hand, one doesn't want to throw away available range and let the enemy come too close. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jun 12, 2022 at 16:02

I must nitpick Halfthawed's answer: In general I think they'll be limited by the flight profile of the weapon being used.

While I haven't seen the ape movie in question I do not expect anything of the sort to have all that long a throwing range and it's ability to throw up will be even more limited. Let's pretend the kaiju can throw 100m straight up (and I doubt it can.) The helicopter pilot closes to 120m--nope, can't engage because the rocket will fly forward, not downward.

To actually fire a rocket at the kaiju it's going to have to back off considerably to be outside it's horizontal throwing limit and come down so it can actually bear on the target.

Besides, I don't think the helicopter pilot is even going to pull the trigger at all. Rather, they'll use the most dangerous weapon known to man: A radio. Find the kaiju, light it up (target designation laser) and call the fast movers. The big bombs will be far more effective than the helicopter's weapons. If it's big enough to warrant big military firepower they're not going to be fighting with kid gloves.


If you can see it you can shoot it, if you can't target it you have problems.

Part of the question is related to how you can target the monster. For tanks and conventional targets ranges from 0.5 to 11 km are probably reasonable for some missile systems from helicopters and would depend on altitude and slant range, but also can you really see the target with confidence to release the weapon. If your monster is stealthy (cold blooded so no IR signature) then closer ranges might be needed just to have good visual confirmation or for the system to go where you want it too. If there is a laser designator you may need to also see it with your imaging system and that might limit your range.

The M230 chain gun on the apache has an effective firing range about 1600 yards, and a maximum firing range of about 4400 yards. In the case your very large monster you can probably extend the maximum firing range and hit the monster although with lesser effect as the range increases.

I think for the unguided missiles and depleted uranium cannon it is also a targeting problem and if you have line of sight to the target. For something like a depleted uranium cannon, you can also have tracer rounds that can be very helpful in understanding where your rounds are going.

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    $\begingroup$ For any unguided round you will get as close as you safely can to maximize the hit chance and in the case of a round with a substantial kinetic threat you'll also want to get close to maximize damage. (Bullets lose energy, rockets have the same boom no matter how far they fly.) $\endgroup$ Jun 13, 2022 at 0:11

Depends on the situation, the monster's attack range, and the accuracy range (circular error probable). If the monster has ranged attacks like beams or fire breathing, stay out of the effective range. That distance can be tested by drones or have a resident genius to calculate the value. Modern weapons are designed to just be able to penetrate the armor of existing enemy vehicle/body armor and be very accurate. Thus, a considerable amount of the missile's mass is the guidance module. A monster would have significantly higher armor, but less mobility. Thus no guidance module is needed and a conventional military just needs to chunk unguided rockets at the monster.


Frame Challenge

Engaging a 7-story tall animal with antitank weapons is unrealistic at all distances.

You're really overestimating the power of anti-tank weapons. If you've been watching videos of Russian tanks being blown to smithereens, you need to realize that the large explosion is caused by the Russian tank's own ammo stocks. The explosion of the anti-tank weapon itself is rather small and unspectacular. Antitank weapons create small but really focused blasts of energy.

A hellfire missile has 8kg of explosive. That's enough to generate on the order of 10 million calories of energy. That, in turn, is enough to heat a 2m cube of water by a single degree Celsius. Impressive to a human or a tank, but your 7-story crab kaiju is basically 20 thousand cubic meters of water with some structure.

Saying that the hellfire creates a flesh wound really overrates its wounding potential against such a thing. Your helicopter is going to create a few pock marks in its shell and call for something with a much bigger payload.

  • $\begingroup$ In general terms of scale, that would be equivalent of shooting a human with a low low caliber bullet. Which can easily be fatal even though loss of blood. $\endgroup$ Jun 13, 2022 at 18:30

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